Originally: US Turns Blind Eye to Concrete Steps Made by Haiti to Combat Trafficking in

US Turns Blind Eye to Concrete Steps Made by Haiti to Combat Trafficking in


The release yesterday of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons

Report, placing Haiti in the category of least compliant countries, came as a

complete shock to the Government of Haiti. Over the past two years Haiti’s

government has made significant progress to enforce the human rights and quality of

life for its children, as well as passing legislation in May prohibiting

trafficking in persons and banning the provision of the labor code which sanctioned

child domestic labor. (See below for more details on efforts made by the

Government of Haiti.)

The State Department defines a tier 3 rating as applying to those countries

“whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not

making significant efforts to do so.”  Haiti’s Minister of Education, Marie

Carmel Paul Austin, explained that placing Haiti in this category “is unjustified

and appears completely at odds with the criteria used to rate other listed

countries in their efforts to combat trafficking.”

An example of how the report does not consistently apply its own criteria and

fails to take into consideration measures taken by the Haitian government,

while praising and crediting identical efforts made by other nations, can be

found in the area of education.  Haiti’s Universal Schooling program has

increased access to schooling through construction of additional schools in rural and

urban areas, subsidizing school uniforms and textbooks by 70%, expanding its

hot lunch program, increasing its school bus program, and waging a nationwide

literacy program, now in its second year.

These measures to promote greater school enrollment in Haiti were not even


in the report as preventive measures to combat child domestic service,

whereas in the case of 17 other countries ranked tier 1 and tier 2 nations, raising

school enrollment is cited as a significant preventive measure.

Many glaring contradictions are evident when comparing Haiti with other

countries who were placed in less damning categories.  The State Department report

completely ignored the important provision of Haiti’s anti-trafficking

legislation that rescinds the provision of the Labor Code sanctioning child domestic

service — which has long been criticized by the human rights community. Oddly

enough, 13 countries with no anti-trafficking legislation whatsoever are

ranked tier 2 or tier 1, while Haiti is ranked tier 3.

Contrary to what was reported in the State Department’s report, Haiti has

made important strides to address the root cause of domestic servitude, took

preventive measures such as the passage of critical legislation and is creating

structures for implementation and enforcement of these changes. The State

Department report faults Haiti for not “arresting or prosecuting traffickers” while

there is no documentation of prosecution for 4 countries listed in the report

which are ranked tier 2.  Not mentioned in the report is Haiti’s new special

police unit that was recently trained and activated for the protection of

children and the promotion of their rights.

This turning of a blind eye to the numerous achievements made by the

Government of Haiti begs the question as to whether the rating placed against Haiti is

not just another attempt to denigrate the Haitian government.  “Placing Haiti

on this list is truly outrageous in light of President Aristide’s unilateral

and historic efforts to fight against the problem of restaveks and the

Parliament’s passage of new and extremely progressive law on these issues, ” said Ira

Kurzban, General Counsel to the Government of Haiti. 

While the State Department report itself cites Haiti’s economic conditions as

an obstacle to improving social conditions, Haiti remains under a US-led

financial embargo.  Recent press coverage has been increasingly sympathetic to

Haiti’s humanitarian crisis exacerbated by this two-year old embargo and there is

an increased clamor in the US Congress, as well as in peace and religious

circles, to lift the embargo on Haiti. Ironically, countries receiving

yesterday’s State Department tier 3 rating become subject to financial sanctions by the

US and international financial institutions providing development assistance.

In the absence of a logical explanation for the unjust rating of Haiti,

Kurzban further added, “It is completely political, having nothing to do with the

reality of what Haiti has done.”

Recent efforts by the Government of Haiti to Combat Trafficking in Persons


Education: Universal Schooling program for increased access to school,

subsidized school uniforms and textbooks (increasing to 70% Fall 2003), constructed

schools in rural and urban areas, expanded school hot lunch program, expanded

school bus program.

Anti-Trafficking Legislation/Prosecution: On May 15, 2003 Haiti’s Parliament

enacted anti-trafficking legislation and also repealed a provision of the

Labor Code sanctioning child domestic service.


Police Training: Creation of a special 33 officer brigade to protect minors

against all

forms of abuse, including abuses related to child domestic service.

Border efforts include steps to increase specialized border patrols. A

presidential commission is accessing and addressing border issues.

Birth Certificates/Travel Documents: This government recently renewed a

previous commitment to register all birth certificates free of cost.

Haiti has long required parental consent for any child traveling without a